“What are you intending to use that for, Sir?” It was Policeman 2 speaking, frowning heavily as Leslie went to put a boxed toaster in his trolley.
“I’m not,” he said. “But if I were, I expect it would be for making toast. Toasters are a rather one-trick pony, don’t you think?”
“Is that supposed to be funny, Sir?”
Leslie smiled; this was one of the supermarkets that had been embarrassed by the horse-meat in the beef-burgers stories that had been making the newspapers worth reading lately, but he hadn’t actually intended his comment to be a reference to it. He had already noted a stack of leaflets near the checkouts proudly proclaiming that the supermarket had learned from this experience and wished to tell their customers about the changes they would effect. He’d ignored them, mostly because he wouldn’t dream of buying meat from a supermarket.
“No,” he said. “Though now you draw my attention to it, I believe I can make it funny. You can expect to see it in about three weeks, if you watch Kirsten and Alice.” Kirsten and Alice was a topical sketch show he submitted material to, and he’d been quite pleased to get a letter from the script editor asking him to submit more and more frequently.
“We’ll be watching you, Sir,” said Policeman 1, trying to do menacing. Leslie felt that it came off as dull and lifeless, and it reminded him unpleasantly of his days as a drama coach trying to get wooden students to understand that acting was all about being someone else for five minutes. He’d finally resigned, telling the head of the school that since most of the students there hadn’t worked out who they were themselves there was no hope of getting them to pretend to be anyone else.
“So why are you buying a toaster you don’t intend to use?” asked Policeman 2, the brighter of the pair. His notebook and pencil appeared as if by magic.
“To give as a gift,” said Leslie. He’d given up being astonished by the stupidity of his bodyguard, and although he’d entertained the idea for a while that they were trying to wear him down into a confession, he no longer thought that anyone could be that stubborn. “My wife left me a note this morning saying that it was the housekeeper’s birthday and that I should get her something.”
“Why not?” Leslie shrugged. “I barely know the woman, and she only ever serves me with cold toast, so perhaps I can be generous while dropping a hint.”
“How about flowers, Sir? My wife likes flowers.” Policeman 1 flushed pink as he said this, and Leslie found himself pitying the man.
“I can’t imagine that my wife would be pleased if I gave the housekeeper flowers, officer,” he said. “She might feel that it was a rather too intimate gift for the staff. How would you feel if I gave you flowers?”
“I’ve got hayfever,” said Policeman 1.
“So we’d have to consider the intent behind the flowers,” said Policeman 2 quickly. “That could constitute an attempt at murder, or threatening behaviour!”
“Everything’s murder with you isn’t it?” Leslie knew he sounded bitter but couldn’t help it. The policeman had been following him around for nearly 4 months now, and he was losing hope that the police budget crisis would put an end to it.
“Not us, Sir,” said Policeman 2. “The only murderer here is you, if you’d only be so kind to admit it.”
There was a squeak from the next aisle and the sound of something glass striking the floor and breaking.
“You did that,” said Leslie without rancour. “You should go and help.”
“And leave you on your own to murder someone? You’d like that, wouldn’t you, Sir?”
“I’d love to be left alone, yes,” said Leslie. “I don’t murder people though, and I never have.”
“It’s just coincidence that people keep dying near you, then, Sir?”
“Yes! A thousand times yes! Although…” Leslie eyed Policeman 2 up thoughtfully, “This never used to happen until you two arrived. If we’re going purely on circumstantial evidence then one of you is clearly the murderer, attempting to pin the crime on me.”
“That seems a bit far-fetched, Sir,” said Policeman 2. Leslie snorted and turned the corner of the aisle. Sprawled in the next aisle in an expanding pool of blood was a dead young woman.
“Oh God,” he said weakly. “How did the pair of you manage that then?” Policeman 2 shot him a filthy look and radioed in for help.
“Yes, he’s murdered another one while we were watching him… no, he didn’t kill her in front of us… no, he didn’t get away from us… no… no… yes… no, well, we were with him and there’s another murdered body in the next… no… yes… well he’s a murderer isn’t he?” Finally the conversation stopped and Policeman 2 looked at Leslie. “You’re going to have to come in for questioning.”